General questions

Why open source?

Open source is a solution against growing monopolisation. Honey bees are still a commonly owned good, available for everyone.

What does “open source” mean?

Open source allows bees to be used without restrictions from patents or private property protection. But that does not mean there are no restrictions at all. Rather, open source protects bees from being privatised; they stay as a common good. There are clear rules: the user may use open-source bees, multiply them, pass them on, and breed with them. The user must grant the same rights that he or she has enjoyed to future owners of the bees. This is also known as “copyleft”: any future enhancements or breeding lines based on the breeding material are subject to the same rules.

How can the open-source license prevent patenting?

It is a sad fact that in recent years the European Patent Office has increasingly allowed the patenting of life forms which occur in nature or are derived from normal breeding (that is, breeding without the use of genetic engineering).
This is contrary to Article 53b of the European Patent Convention. The patent-granting procedure does not check for legal ownership or legally compliant behaviour. It does check if the organism is new, as novelty is required condition. Patent offices do this by checking all publicly available sources. This is why it is very important to describe the licensed bees in great detail. These descriptions are published immediately and are used as evidence if it comes to a patent dispute.

Which open-source strategies exist?

Various approaches to fulfil the open source principles are currently being tried out. In the USA, the organisation OSSI has chosen the ethical approach, in which it requires the user to promise to comply by the open source rules. In India, farmers have chosen an approach based on an adaption of licences. In Venezuela, local groups are contributing to the development of rules that would have legal force. In Many jurisdictions, however, the legal framework makes it possible to work with a legally enforceable contract. The concept is described in a publication by Kotschi, J. and Rapf, K. (2016): Liberating seeds with an Open Source Seed (OSS) Licence, Working Paper, AGRECOL. This is the approach used by OpenSourceBees as well as OpenSourceSeeds http://www.opensourceseeds.org .

The Open Source License

What does the open source license do?

The licence is a contract under civil law that regulates the transfer of breeding material for honey bees. It obliges the licensee to grant the same rights that he or she has enjoyed to future owners of the bees. Any future enhancements or breeding lines based on it are subject to the same rule.

In which languages is the open-source licence available?

Currently in German, English and French. The meanings of all language versions are the same.

Can I use any language version of the licence?

Yes. The meanings of all language versions are the same. It is important to choose a language that the recipient will understand best. Please contact us if you wish to help develop a new language version.

Legal Background

Does the Nagoya Protocol apply to beekeeping?

The FAO has been tasked with inclusion of bees under this treaty.

Does the open-source licence apply in my home country?

If you live in a country that has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (e.g. the United States, Vatican City and disputed territories such as Kosovo), the licence may not have the same force as elsewhere. Please contact us for detailed information.

What is the Nagoya Protocol?

The Nagoya Protocol is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity. It regulates access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing. In the European Union, EU Regulation 511/2014 governs what users of genetic resources are obliged to do and outlines the documents required for the acquisition of genetic resources (such as open source breeding material for bees).